There has not been a time in modern history more competitive for new businesses than now. In some ways, this is a very good thing! It means there are more startups, and that the small business economy is active. On the other hand though, it makes for an extremely competitive environment for newcomers.
Take Oregon for instance, given that it’s where EHacking operates. Of late, Portland has been labeled as a major startup market emerging as perhaps the next startup hub in the United States. This means a growing talent pipeline, entire neighborhoods known for new businesses, and hundreds of millions of dollars of funding in circulation. Again, this is a good thing in general. But how is any new startup really supposed to stand out in an environment like the current one in Oregon?
It will always depend on what the actual businesses is, in some part. But the following are a few relatively easy ways that a new startup can generally look to seize a portion of the spotlight in a busy climate.
1. Brand Effectively
A logo. Sometimes that’s all it can take to differentiate two products or businesses that may otherwise be functionally similar in consumers’ minds. The way you brand your company is ultimately one of the best ways to help it stand out in a crowded area or industry. And while it may not be wholly accurate to call this easy, it is simple. A good name, a short-and-sweet slogan, a logo that pops, and a company mission, purpose, and/or story that can fit into a sentence or two can comprise a good initial branding approach. These are all worth investing in, both in the form of market research (to see which names and logos people respond to) and professional help (with design specifically). But really it’s not that big an effort, and it’s one of the most surefire ways to stand out.
2. Make the Startup a Limited Liability Company
To a lot of startup founders, the notion of setting up an LLC seems like something that should be addressed further down the road, if at all. But the truth is there are some clear benefits to doing it early on. The benefits to forming an LLC in Oregon for instance include the ability to choose how the business is taxed (and avoid the double taxation of paying for business profits in personal filings). Additionally however, forming an LLC allows you to call your business an LLC, which is something a lot of other startup founders won’t be able to do. Most consumers don’t really think through (or care) what this means. But many will see “LLC” on a website or in a place of business and assume a degree of professionalism that isn’t necessarily there with competitors. It’s a simple but savvy move.
3. Participate Locally
In a piece surveying entrepreneurs who started businesses in Portland, Raven Zachary (who founded Small Society and Object Theory) made a very interesting point. Zachary noted that Portland “doesn’t really have those large anchor technology companies” and that bigger companies in the area — like Intel — don’t participate at local tech events. He adds even that Nike, arguably Portland’s most famous company, doesn’t necessarily participate in local events. This introduces the idea that some smaller or newer companies making an effort to establish a presence at local conferences and other events might have a better chance of standing out. A startup that garners some attention in its home city and/or state will be better positioned to grow than a competitor that doesn’t participate.
4. Build a User-Friendly Platform
Building a user-friendly platform is sort of an ongoing process, as opposed to a single effort. However, it’s exceedingly important for any startup seeking real success. In fact, failure to be user-friendly ranks among the top reasons startups fail, with some 17% of unsuccessful startups reporting that this was a problem. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to bring about better user-friendliness. Mostly, they revolve around testing. If you have a core product you want to launch, test it among neutral parties and value their feedback. If you’re launching a website or app, have other people use it first and make sure it’s attractive and intuitive. Again, there should be an ongoing process of maintaining user-friendliness. But it can be fairly simple to do what you need to do in order to launch with confidence that consumers will find your company and product easy to engage with.